Thursday, 22 September -- Yangon - Pyay

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Moving through traffic in a city of 6 million people with only very basic public transit is a real challenge. Gave us lots of time to see interesting things like the "romantic benches" along the lake, where young couples hide behind umbrellas to smooch. "The Lady" lives on the other side of the lake. She was under house arrest there for many years, is  not allowed to be president, but is speaking at the UN today and has received the Nobel Peace Prize. She holds the title of Councillor or something and is, in effect, the President or Prime Minister. The most popular cosmetic here is a sort of beige paste that is applied in circles or squares on the face. 
It gives protection from the sun and makes the skin soft and wrinkle-free. To our eyes it looks strange. We stopped at a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery from World War II. It is huge and peaceful and lovely and sad. Several of us ran across the busy road to use the rather basic but Western toilets. We had one more very basic pit stop before lunch, then a 1/2 hour stop at a roadside restaurant, again basic facilities and people picked up some packaged food. The road is rough and narrow and full of traffic -- buses, trucks, cars, motorbikes and bikes, as well as herds of cattle and goats. At one point we were stopped for a crew cutting trees to make way for power lines. It was dramatic when the top 1/3 of a good sized tree crashed to the road right in front of us. A guy quickly attacked it with a chainsaw and a  number of men and women dragged off the pieces. On both sides are vast rice paddies. It looks like industrial farming.
Finally, after a rough 7 hours, covering about 100 miles, we arrived at the boat. To get to it from the bus required a perilous descent on a slippery set of "steps". Staff from the boat provided support on each side, but there was still a lot of slipping and sliding. Really a  bad start. The boat itself is lovely and our state rooms large and comfortable. We can lie in bed and watch the passing scenery through a large sliding glass door. So nice to finally unpack. Of course everything that's been in the suitcase for a week in this humdity is a crumpled mess, but we've all decided we don't really care. We enjoyed a light lunch, then later a welcome cocktail and appetizers, followed by a large dinner. Larry has a cold, so stayed in our room for dinner. I was immediately asked if he'd like to eat in the room and I arranged for him to have soup. This boat will accommodate 56 passengers, but there are only 18 of us, with a staff and crew of 30, so I think we'll be spoiled. We'll stay in Pyay overnight and move on tomorrow.
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